Last night the Pacing Triple Crown came to a conclusion with the running of the Messenger Stakes and the filly companion stake, the Lady Maud. While If I Can Dream won the Messenger as expected, Yellow Diamond went down to defeat in the $364,430 Lady Maud Pace.
In the Lady Maud, Shanghai Lil scored an upset victory over Yellow Diamond in a brisk 1:53.3. In defeat, Yellow Diamond still showed why she was one of the best three year old pacing fillies as she was nipped at the wire by Shanghai Lil who benefited by Yellow Diamond getting roughed up in a :27 first quarter. Shanghai Lil was able to sting Yellow Diamond going to the quarter and then sat in the pocket the rest of the mile pulling out mid-way down the homestretch to collar Yellow Diamond at the wire (Unfortunately, the only replay available of the Lady Maud does not show the entire mile. It only shows the race to mid-stretch. If you wish to see the replay as available, you may click here).
In the $542,060 Messenger Stakes for three year old pacing colts, If I Can Dream wired the field in an impressive 1:52.2. If you look at the chart for the race, it would seem If I Can Dream had an easy three length victory; that is not the case. If I Can Dream was parked to the first quarter by Hypnotic Blue Chip and was then under pressure by Clear Vision in the third quarter as those two raced in tandem most of that quarter. Clear Vision showed a lot of heart in the race as he chased If I Can Dream home the final quarter when he had every excuse to quit after hooking up with the race winner in the third quarter. Entry mate Straight Shooting finished a non-threatening third while Hypnotic Blue Chip finished a well beaten fourth.
In a look back at one of harness racing's classic races, we go back to 1998 and take a look at the $600,000 March of Dimes Trot at the now defunct Garden State Park; a race I consider one of the best I had ever seen. Sugarcane Hanover, representing Norway, defeated the French champion Ourasi and American superstar Mack Lobell in 1:55.1.
Besides the brilliant victory by Sugarcane Hanover, there were several things to note about the race. First of all, notice the style of racing compared to the racing we are now seeing on a daily basis. The horses are making moves all throughout the race and are racing tightly bunched during the race. Nowadays, we have less movement during the race and the horses are strung out instead of racing as a pack. There was an international field, with representatives from Canada (Go Get Lost), France (Ourasi), Norway (Sugarcane Hanover), Finland (Friendly Face), Italy, and of course the United States. Another thing, with the exception of Go Get Lost, all the horses were older than three. While we can not have an international field in every race, if we would conduct our races in a similar racing style, our races would be more exciting than they are now and could help draw more people to the track and increase wagering on harness racing.
A couple notes regarding the thoroughbred Breeder's Cup. First of all, notice the influx of horses racing abroad in the Breeders Cup. We need to do more to get an international feel for our Breeders Crown events. Also, as a follow-up to my earlier posting calling for harness racing to offer proposition bets, it should be noted that the Breeder's Cup had a Jockey Head2Head wager where you attempted to pick the jockey that would win the most races from the two Breeder's Cup races over a two day periods. It turns out the winner for the Head2Head wager was the field (all other jockeys) which paid $5.60. Admittedly, the wager did not generate a huge handle ($117,559) when compared to the other pools. While not a huge money maker, it did allow provide novices an easy way to be introduced to horse racing. Clearly, at this time it appears this is not a wager to be offered on a daily basis, but for special event days, it may be a wager worth offering; days where a large number of novices will be attending.